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  Disappointing five years of Loktantra  


Last Sunday, the nation celebrated the completion of five years of loktantra that ‘replaced’ prajatantra with hardly any enthusiasm. However, both terminologies mean the same thing- democracy. This is so because in this country democracy is understood in terms of what political forces prescribe rather than in terms of its universal definition and application, hence new lexicons of democracy appear, disappear and reappear. For example, when Nepali Congress (NC) - the vanguard of liberal democracy for over six decades- and moderate communist parties like CPN-UML were comfortable with constitutional monarchy, democracy was ‘prajatantra.’ When they felt that monarchy was not compatible with democracy and hoped that Maoists can turn democratic, the nomenclature was changed into loktantra. The Maoists, however, believe in janabad (people’s democracy) only – a system of one-party communist state as prescribed by Mao.

Had loktantra worked, Nepali people would be living in a world full of or promising of security, prosperity, opportunity, peace, freedom and justice, and not the opposite. Now, except freedom everything else in the list is missing; and, freedom has turned into complete lawlessness. Therefore, instead of self-congratulating on the occasion, protagonists of loktantra had better do some soul-searching; for, during last five years heroes of loktantra have turned villains in the eyes of the public. Similarly, common people, a sizable chunk of those who actively took part in the uprising for loktantra, have been grossly disappointed and many even feel betrayed.

When Maoists launched the armed insurgency 15 years ago, their goal was to establish a one party communist rule. If the goal were to achieve something else such as ‘more democracy’ as some political analysts suggest (for example, social and political inclusion of the hitherto marginalized communities or federalization of the existing unitary nation-state), a long bloody war that would claim 17 thousand innocent lives along with other colossal damages was not warranted. Those changes could have been achieved from within the existing politico-constitutional framework (those issues were flared up mainly to create support bases for their newborn party).

Like all traditional communists, Maoists believe/d in the enemy theories. Bourgeoisie democracy characterized by NC and feudalism patronized by monarchy were their top enemies. However, depending upon which force was more powerful or more potentially threatening their order kept changing. Sometimes NC would be ranked as the one enemy, sometimes it was monarchy. Mostly, it was NC as it was a people based force having an ideology opposite to theirs. It was the largest political party and also was in power for most of the time during the post-1990 era.

Monarchy was a different case. Without the support of the Army, which it enjoyed through clannish connections, it would be a weaker force. Therefore, to weaken/defeat the larger enemy, Maoists reached a secret understanding with the lesser one- the then King Birendra who agreed not to mobilize the army against them. In return, they would NOT attack the army. Nevertheless, as the rebels made inroads in large areas of rural hills, some of the royals started to feel the heat. Particularly King’s illiberal brother Gyanendra, one of the main architects of the ‘Maoist-monarchy covert understanding’, wanted to review the understanding. With his accession to the throne as the only surviving heir after the royal massacre that took place following a family feud in 2001, the understanding was broken from both sides. Maoists attacked the army barracks (in Dang) and King Gyanendra mobilized the army against them. Now it was the turn of the monarchy to top the list of enemies. The rest is history.
Thus, defectively born out of tactical alliances of strange bedfellows and bereft of good parenting, loktantra has been unable to attain its normal growth. And, people have lost hope, if not faith, in it.

NC, on the other hand, with its poor organizational capabilities, intra-party feuds, inept and corrupt leadership, naïve and inefficient workers, indifference toward people’s aspirations for change and lackluster performances was on a constant decline despite being in power. Against this backdrop, an adventurer Gyanendra took power into his hands on February 1, 2005, on the implied support of the army. It is noteworthy that for a pretty long time there was no popular opposition to the royal rule, on the contrary, a great number of people that included the more educated ones remained supportive, albeit silently, of the royal takeover, firstly because they were fed up with the parties both in power and opposition and secondly, the Maoist violence had made them desperate. They hoped that the king’s direct rule will bring peace and good governance to the country. Later, only when the king, with his foolishness, made everyone- including the powerful southern neighbor- an enemy, his days seemed numbered. When huge mass rallies against his rule, both orchestrated by his enemies and spontaneous, that claimed 19 lives in 19 days showed no sign of subsiding, he surrendered.

New Delhi has a host of political-strategic reasons to provide sanctuary to the Maoists at first and subsequently to bring them into peace process. The 12 point Peace Accord they brokered also meant to create a demonstration effect on their native Maoists, to follow suit. However, the plan backfired. Indian Maoist’s response to the peace deal signed between the Seven Party Alliance and Maoists (SPAM) was one that of condemnation of their Nepali counterpart followed by escalation in (their) violence. In a later phase, anti-India misadventures of Nepali Maoists only added to South Bloc’s fury and frustration.

The ‘peace’ did not benefit much the Seven-Party-Alliance either, that included the big two- NC and CPN-UML. Maoists, with their unchallenged might in the rural-hills and superiority of powers of money, militancy and muscle over others, emerged as the largest party in the constituent assembly polls. Thereafter, they not only took a confrontational approach toward other political forces/parties but also showed reluctance to draft a democratic constitution and to complete the peace process (by integrating/rehabilitating their army into the national army/society) in a way agreeable to all.

Besides other wrongdoings, foolish and selfish architects/actors of loktantra have invited, to serve their misguided and parochial interests, the dangers of ethnic and political conflicts at the doorsteps of the nation. Except for two goals- removal of monarchy and remaining in power- they never had anything in common. It was this lack of common grounds that prevented them from working together in a comprehensive and conciliatory manner before, during and after the peace deal. With the accomplishment of the first common goal- the removal of monarchy- they are now focused single-mindedly on the second- the game of power where all cannot be winners.

Maoists, the most benefited force from loktantra, had always been advocating and even attempting to capture state power using military might. After spending five years in peace process, the party has officially adopted a political line to revolt (although the whole rank and file is now severely divided on the issue). NC party men are repenting and criticizing, albeit in private, their late leader GP Koirala for the flawed deal but they are too weak and ineffective a force to either produce a solution or to counter the Maoists on their own. CPN-UML- the party of democratic communists is in much worse position following bitter ideological, factional and personal in-fights. Thus, defectively born out of tactical alliances of strange bedfellows and bereft of good parenting, loktantra has been unable to attain its normal growth. And, people have lost hope, if not faith, in it.
Published on 2011-04-28 01:15:37
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Disappointing Five Years Of Loktantra
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The writer has made a correct evaluation of the performance of the political parties. Ever since the advent of the India imposed democracy in Nepal, things are falling apart, nation has been disgraced and is the process of disintegration. The advocates of democracy and human rights are busy collecting money for themselves from International agencies and the embassies in Kathmandu while are suffering immensely. Never had Nepal been in such a terrible situation as it is right now. India is encroa [more]
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